Implementing a Palliative Medicine Music Therapy Program: A Quality Improvement Project

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2019 Jul;36(7):603-607. doi: 10.1177/1049909119834878. Epub 2019 Mar 7.


Objectives: Recent evidence suggests that music therapy, a holistic method of care, potentially is beneficial for symptom management. This quality improvement project aimed to evaluate the effect of music therapy on symptom management and coping skills of patients receiving palliative care and to measure patient satisfaction with the therapy. A secondary aim was to evaluate staff perception of patient outcomes of music therapy services.

Methods: Palliative care clinicians attended a 30-minute education session on music therapy before the project was initiated. Study participants were patients and their families who were cared for by the inpatient palliative care consulting service at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) from June 1 through December 31, 2016. Patients were eligible if they required ongoing management of pain and anxiety or needed adaptive coping strategies. Patients and families were asked to complete a survey after each music therapy session. Staff were asked to complete a survey after completion of the project.

Results: Music therapy was provided to 57 patients and 53 family members. Patient surveys indicated a decrease in anxiety and pain. All patients reported that music therapy facilitated stress relief, relaxation, pain relief, spiritual support, emotional support, and a general feeling of wellness. All participants recommended music therapy services for others. Palliative care clinicians reported that music therapy added value as a holistic service.

Conclusions: In this quality improvement project, music therapy positively affected multiple domains of well-being for patients receiving palliative care.

Keywords: holistic; music therapy; palliative care; palliative medicine; symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Pain Management / nursing*
  • Pain Management / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult